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Welfare body to help RIR men adjust to Civvy Street

By Mark Hookham

A publicly-funded welfare organisation is to be created to help Royal Irish Regiment ex-soldiers start new lives in 'Civvy Street', the Government announced yesterday.

Specially-trained advisers will help the 2,000 full-time RIR home service personnel made redundant under the disbandment programme find jobs and training.

The organisation will also offer medical care and direct benevolence support for veterans, their families and widows.

The welfare body, which forms a core part of an aftercare package - worth £2m a year - for redundant personnel and their dependants, was unveiled yesterday in Parliament by defence minister Adam Ingram.

Under the package, every full-time soldier leaving because of disbandment will be offered at least seven weeks of training courses worth £534.

Soldiers will also be allowed instant access to the Government's New Deal scheme of employment support.

The unemployed normally have to wait for six months before qualifying for New Deal help.

Mr Ingram also said the Government would pay for extra "mental health and physical therapies" for those ex-servicemen who remain injured or are still carrying the mental scars of service.

The package includes personnel who were originally in the Ulster Defence Regiment, which became the home service element of the RIR in 1992.

However, it will not apply to the 1,000 part-time RIR soldiers who also face disbandment.

An MoD spokesman said: "This is primarily an organisation to enable those being made redundant from the full time home service battalions to make the transition into Civvy Street.

"It is an organisation that will signpost ex-soldiers towards organisations that may be able to help them - such as the Royal British Legion or charitable organisations like Combat Stress.

"There is a benevolence aspect based upon the Royal Irish Benevolent Fund and UDR Benevolent Fund."

The MoD has previously announced a £240m redundancy package for troops in the three RIR home battalions.

Defence chiefs were forced to defend the scheme after it was revealed that the average PSNI officer, who retired under the terms of the Patton policing agreement, enjoyed a windfall of £74,000 per officer.

In his statement to MPs, Mr Ingram said: "This package, worth in the region of £2m a year, reflects our commitment to treat the Home Service with fairness and dignity."

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